Scientists from the British Antarctic Survey, along with collaborators from around the world, have created the most detailed map yet of what is hidden under Antarctica’s ice sheets. Using radio echo sounding measurements, seismic techniques, satellite readings and cartographic data, they have created the details composite views that you can see above and below, revealing previously hidden mountain ranges, plains, and valleys cut by deep gorges…
Emperor Penguins Closer to Endangered Species Act Protection
Icons of Wild Antarctica Are Threatened by Climate Change
media release by CBC
In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today that the emperor penguin may warrant Endangered Species Act protection based on threats from climate change. The most ice-dependent of all penguin species, emperor penguins are threatened by the loss of their sea-ice habitat and declining food availability off Antarctica.
“Our carbon pollution is melting the sea-ice habitat emperor penguins need to survive,” said Shaye Wolf, climate science director at the Center. “Emperor penguins are the icons of wild Antarctica, and they need rapid cuts in carbon pollution and Endangered Species Act protections if they’re going to have a future.”
Emperor penguins rely on sea ice for raising their chicks and foraging. In parts of Antarctica where sea ice is rapidly disappearing, emperor penguins populations are declining or have been lost entirely. The emperor penguin colony featured in the film March of the Penguins has declined by more than 50 percent, and the Dion Island colony in the Antarctic Peninsula has disappeared. One recent study projected that nearly half of the world’s emperor penguins may disappear by mid-century without drastic cuts in carbon pollution…
The newfound sea snail, or limpet, is from a group that specializes in feeding on the decaying beaks of squid, octopi, and their relatives, according to study leader Katrin Linse of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
Linse and a team of marine biologists from BAS and other institutions hauled up 5,469 specimens belonging to 275 species from the depths of the little-explored sea of the Southern Ocean during a 2008 research cruise.
That year, scientists on the RSS James Clark Rosstook advantage of the thin summer ice to get close to the edge of the ice shelf and bring up the thousands of specimens, including some newly discovered in Antarctic waters. At least 10 percent of all the species collected are new to science, and the figure is likely to rise, Linse said.
Bird Note: South Polar Skuas - Bullies of the Oceans
The bird world has its bullies, too.
with Tom Johnson
Meet the South Polar Skua, a big, bad bully of the bird world. During summer in Antarctica, South Polar Skuas feed their young with the chicks of other seabirds. And once their breeding season ends, the skuas fly to northern oceans, such as the North Atlantic, to find large flocks of shearwaters, gulls, or terns – then they steal the food that their fellow seabirds worked so hard to catch!
Seals, whales, penguins and other animals eat Antarctic salps as a part of their diet. But, what is a salp, you ask? Salps are filter-feeding tunicates—transparent and gelatinous animals that float throughout the water column.
… among the very coolest of the fishes. You might say they have icewater in their veins. That would be inaccurate, though.
The antifreeze compounds in their blood prevent it from icing up. One thing they don’t seem to need in it, though: haemoglobin. It probably helps that there’s so much oxygen dissolved in the near-freezing water of the Southern Ocean- nearly twice as much as in the tropics.
They did need a few other tools, though, to dispense with the oxygen-binding protein. They have a larger volume of blood then you’d expect for their size, and a larger heart. Also, more blood vessels in their gills than you see in other fishes.
Explore the world’s new coastlines if sea level rises 216 feet…
The maps here show the world as it is now, with only one difference: All the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216 feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas.
There are more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58…
The Antarctic Peninsula is one of the fastest-warming places on Earth, and the increasing temperature has had one unusual impact: Moss is growing up to four times more quickly than it did a century ago, new research shows. The number of predatory microbes inside the moss, named amoebae, has also swelled with the temperature, increasing more than sixfold since the area began to warm in the 1960s.
Moss and microbes may not be the first life-forms that come to mind when thinking of the Antarctic, but they are the dominant land-based organisms that live in the area year-round, surviving frigid temperatures, said Jessica Royles, a researcher at the British Antarctic Survey and the University of Cambridge. The study “highlights that biological systems there are sensitive to changes in climate that we know have occurred, but haven’t necessarily measured in these systems,” Royles told LiveScience…
Deep, dark, and mysterious, Lake Vostok is one of the deepest subglacial lakes in the world.
Buried under more than 2 miles (3.7 kilometers) of ice near Vostok research station in Antarctica, the lake filled before Antarctica froze 15 million years ago, researchers think. Covered with ice for millennia, cut off from light and contact with the atmosphere, Lake Vostok is one of the most extreme environments on Earth.
The freshwater lake may harbor a unique ecosystem of microbes and other creatures that evolved in isolation for hundreds of thousands of years. These “extremophiles" could mimic life on other moons and planets, such as Jupiter’s icy moon Europa. Only meltwater from the overlying icesheet and drainage from Antarctica’s subglacial waterways have touched the lake since it froze over during the Miocene period. This constant replenishment means the water in the lake may be only as old as the ice that melts to form it, some 700,000 to 800,000 years, according to ice cores. But the true age of the lake water is unknown…
Cystosphaera jacquinotii, a fucoid alga native to the Antarctic peninsula. The spherical structures are pneumatocysts, or floats which keep the lamina elevated in the water column and exposed to light. The clustered fingerlike projections are receptacles, which contain reproductive structures (antheridia and oogonia). Not a kelp!
The Shy Albatross, Thalassarche cauta, ranges extensively across the Southern Ocean. It spends the majority of its life at sea, soaring on strong winds, or resting on the water’s surface. It feeds on fish, squid and crustaceans, plucked from the ocean, and will often gather in flocks behind fishing vessels to scavenge.